“In The Year 2525” topped the charts for 6 weeks during the summer of 1969. It was Number 1 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and still held the top spot when a few hundred thousand members of the Love Generation gathered for three days of peace, love, and music at the Woodstock Festival. For young people everywhere, at home or cruising around on their summer vacation, on transistor radio or stereo hi-fi, it was the song of the season. Lyrically, it warned of the dangers of technology even as the US government launched rockets into space, and a new generation, already in the process of getting back to nature, took its message to heart.
“In The Year 2525” is an unusual song, especially for one that sold millions of copies. For a kick-off, it’s not the cheeriest of songs—what with humanity becoming reliant on machines in a prescient cross of The Matrix and Wall-E—plus, there’s no chorus to speak of (especially strange since the other big hits that year included singalongs like “Sugar, Sugar” and “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In.”)
Also unique, Zager and Evans—who wrote the song in 1964—hailed from the Cornhusker State of Nebraska, as did their bandmates Trupp and Dalton. As far as I can tell, this is the only #1 song—indeed the only Top 40 song—ever written by, sung by, or played by Nebraskans. Falling into the category of “Things That Rarely Happen Today,” the song began as a local hit in Omaha in 1968 and slowly spread across the country before RCA Records picked it up and made it a national hit the following year.
Finally, Zager and Evans have the dubious distinction of being one of only a handful of artists to have a Number One song and then never chart again. Their follow-up to “In The Year 2525” was titled “Mr. Turnkey,” a song about a rapist who nails his own wrist to the wall as punishment for his crime. Read the previous sentence again. Perhaps it’s for the best that both men went into other areas of the music business (Zager is a very successful guitar maker). But nothing will change the fact that for one summer Zager and Evans captured the imagination of a generation.
Happy Birthday, Mom